Friday, December 31, 2004

Bittersweet Teaser

Got a sneak preview of the Bittersweet location today and everything looks very promising. Espresso wise they will be using a La Marzocco Linea 3 Group, similar to the one we will be using in Hayes Valley (except they have the manual fill/hot water spout button issue figured out and you should see the size of their steam wands!)

Also, here is the beginnings of the Bittersweet website, although you will have to get on their mailing list if you want to be kept in the know.

Either that or just keep checking back here. In the meanwhile, we'll add them to our list of linked food sites.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

The Further Adventures of Manboy and Boyman

Well, another successful day of training at the ol' Hayes Valley spot. Manboy was out to refine upon his soon to be patented "Steadman Style" whilst Boyman looked on. There were some difficulties in taming this wild beast of an espresso, but the drinks weren't without promise.

James on the other hand whipped some shots into shape with little difficulty at the soon-to-be-opened chocolatier called Bittersweet. You'll have a URL soon enough!

Located in that Uzen, Soi Four, Diesel Books part of the neighborhood, this place will rock all kinds of chocolate heaven plus Blue Bottle Coffee. Check back here for updates.

Until tomorrow.

Testing and Training

Due to the lack of Farmer's Markets this week, it has been a little slow around the roaster.

James has been roasting, and thinking about Sumatra.

Manboy and Boyman are taking advantage of the slower week to do some experiments over at Hayes Valley.

Speaking of Hayes Valley, the word is getting out.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Holidelay

The Clown College has spread to the four winds for the holiday season, hence no updates. From a remote location, Boyman can wish everyone a Merry Christmas.

The BBCC will be at the roaster on Monday and Friday. The Farmers Markets will resume in two weeks!

Until then, drink coffee.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Last chance...

Yesterday at the Ferry Plaza, Boyman single-handedly made very few drinks and shivered. Yes it was cold. And despite the fact that the Plaza was having a hot chocolate demonstration, people kept lining up for americanos.

It was a sweet send off to the Sunday Market. Look forward to its rebirth sometime next April!

Today was the last chance for shipping so the BBC roaster was cooking despite the cold. People stopped by, packages got sent, Gibraltars were drank.

And speaking of last chances, if you want to buy coffee for your holiday celebration/gift, get down to the Ferry Plaza between 10-2pm so that you can meet Boyman and have a cup o' Giant Steps.

Manboy will be at the final Berkeley Farmers Market of the year between 2-6pm. Rest assured there will be plenty of Solstice revelry to enjoy with your soy latte.

See you there!

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Even in December, Saturday is still Saturday

Wow, up again before the crack of dawn to prep for today's market at the Ferry Plaza. Manboy, who had worked with James the previous night catering to the Clif Bar holiday party, rolled up in grumpy style. Coffee, unfortunately, did little to aid his attitude.

Apparently in a fit of rage the night before, Manboy had become ANGRY RED MANBOY and messed up the sliding door to our garage space. James, not to be out alpha'd in any pissing contest, proceeded to channel his pent up aggression about growing up with only a clarinet for a friend, and ripped the door from it's track, shouting "I'll show you who's first chair!"

Wow.

So, when we arrived this morning, the door was let's say, a little ajar. Getting the story took a few minutes, drinking coffee and eating oatmeal took a few minutes, complaining about our boss took a couple of minutes, and then "Oh snap! We're late!"

Driving at the recommended speed for a Canadian Coffee Cart, Manboy and Boyman raced across the bay bridge to arrive at the Ferry Plaza. We knew we were late with both the Rosies and the Chicken truck there ahead of us.

Through fierce muttering, the morning erection of the Blue Bottle Coffee Cart was completed. James arrived and immediately understood that the minions had lagged in their duties, which wouldn't have been a problem except that the propane tank was malfunctioning and thus we had no pressure.

It took a lot of frantic running around but we learned from previous lessons to bring that extra tank of propane so we were all set when we switched out. Everything ran plenty hot. The lines were steady but not especially jammed.

James pulled, Manboy steamed and ate all the bacon (ed. note: JERK), and Boyman schlepped coffee. At the end of the day, (and no, not in that obnoxious 'at the end of the day' pundit way of saying it) we made close to 200 cups of drip! That's roughly 1600 ounces of drip or 12.5 gallons of coffee which is, well, a lot.

And we had a new good word to add to our resume search: obsequious

Also, we had a customer who just wouldn't stop talking about how good the coffee was. Or rather, this person just wouldn't stop talking. We had a very confusing discussion in which this person insisted that on the authority of Dr. Dean Edell, we aren't supposed to drink coffee any other way than out of a filter. No, I'm not kidding. Apparently the eminent Dr. believes that drinking unfiltered coffee leaves one terribly exposed to the risk of Cancer, and god knows what else.

Naturally, this was the first thing plugged into Google when the BBCC returned to the comforts of our computer. Though there were articles about coffee potentially causing HIGHER CHOLESTEROL both here, and here, neither of those SAY ANYTHING ABOUT CANCER. In fact, if we were actually going to "quote" the good Dr., we might find his research about the benefits of coffee, both here, and here kinda interesting. Or even better, let's ask the BBC (not us but, you know, the real BBC.)

But really, for a nutritionist, perhaps decaf is just a better idea all around.

Guess Manboy's grumpiness is contagious.

Also, Michael from Mill Valley Candleworks stopped by for a latte and a delivery of these cool wax ornaments for the holiday.

Then some guy tried to fight with a security guard, so you know, it was a typical Saturday.

Upon return, the door was fixed, despite Manboy's whining.

Tomorrow is the final Sunday market of the season. That one won't begin again until April. Come down for a drink and to sample some of the fine wares of the market. Boyman from 10-2 p.m.




Tuesday, December 14, 2004

What to do with a Winter market

Well, it seems that the Tuesday markets are losing steam. Whether it is because of weather or lack of produce, farmers are bailing left and right. At the Ferry Plaza, several booths were left vacant. But who can blame them?

The first hours of that market were lonely and cold. For some reason I had been sent to service with Bella Donovan rather than the Giant. That was fine because it seems that most of the people that come to that market enjoy coffee out of a drip machine, "You know, Mr. Coffee."

That way they can sample the coffee before picking up the bag and saying "do you grind?" To which I begin to reply that the flavor of the coffee is dependent on the aroma and when you grind ahead of time so much of that aroma is lost and..."I know, I know but its just so (loud/messy/hard/involved (pick one)) that I need it ground. They grind it at Peets."

This is where that little line of customer service gets crossed and I start making those noises that everyone cringes at.

No really, I love that conversation.

Best part of the day: When a particular fellow with a tapedeck pressed to his head rawks on by with peace sign waving and saying "The Rolling Stones!"

Also: The fattest baby ever. EVER!

Meanwhile in Hayes Valley, James was blending and pouring for our new venture. Calling every once and a while to brag/gloat/tease. Good news is that we might be getting close though all today's findings are up for review.

And Oddjob was pouring some beautiful shots in Berkeley. Maybe a trade could get worked out...

Everything breaks

Well not everything. And a lot got fixed too.

Broken: The phone, the grinder, James' cell phone, the CD player, the Fridge, the fuses in the garage, the water jugs, promises to not talk about butts for five minutes, the toaster at the cafe next door, my car.

Fixed: The grinder, the cell phone, the fuses and my car.

Best phrase of the day: "He won't let me put my sausage on him."

Grossest thing of the day (besides that phrase): the barf on the wall of the roaster next to a knocked over beer bottle in the aftermath of the private party held at the restaurant next door.

Otherwise coffee was roasted and put in bags.

Tomorrow:
-James will be in Hayes Valley trying to spit, not swallow. And he'll be testing espresso
-Boyman will be at the Ferry plaza selling beans and cups of Giant Steps to the public between hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
-Oddjob will be at the Berkeley Farmers Market selling beans and espresso

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Tiny bubbles

Continuing this weeks theme of everybody doing everyone else's jobs, Saturday duties were handled by the usual crew of James and Manboy, but in the role of Boyman, our sometimes pinch-pourer Louisa.

We now turn to James for a brief report:

Note from the front lines:

While your usual correspondent was rolling out of bed at the crack of nine in Monterey, California, the work of Blue Bottle at the Ferry Plaza continued with the same precision and élan that our regulars have grown to contemplate with unabashed wonder. Instead of the insolent and occasionally amusing milk artist, we added a former Frog Barista, whom we kiss in times of trouble to transform into a cool, unflappable order-taking, drip-coffee-making princess. The crowds arrived late, leaving our trigger fingers itching, so to speak, but once the lines formed, we got a chance to see that the modification performed on our cart by the redoubtable fire artist, Justin, was working as hoped.

As usual, bacon and eggs were for breakfast & grass fed-beef sandwiches were for lunch. The Hogs remembered us around 11:30 with some of the finest barbequed oysters in recent memory, and the girls from Miette inexplicably came and left content only to pick up their drinks and rattle Manboy's cage with their mahogany-bobbed loveliness.

Which is to say: no Macaroons for the scruffy lads of Blue Bottle


Meanwhile, Boyman was taking a tour of the finer eating establishments in and around Monterey, where a veritable carnival of coffee oddities awaits the unsuspecting imbiber. Behold the disappearing crema! Behold the macchiato with the impenetrable layer of milk meringue! Behold the mysteries of La Marzocco machines fit for pod espresso! Behold and beware!

And Sunday! What a good time that was. The weather was cool but sunny and everyone decided to actually show up to sell things to the public. Among the booty: A jar of Sundried Tomato tapenade (yes, with olives) from Happy Boy Farms; oranges from Blossom Bluff; some excellent tuna from the fish fellas, and THE LAST JAR OF LOULOUS'S PICKLES FOR THE YEAR! Sweet Christ in the foothills how will we make it? Gonna sell 'em off on ebay in March and cash in. Yes.

Had a long discussion with a very nice lady about how she hates foam. This is a thing I do not understand, nor comply with on a very regular basis. No offense to you non-foamies out there but come on, it's just foam. But no, this lady made her request known and I flagrantly ignored her and when she went to stir in the sugar (yes, it hurt) she promptly FREAKED OUT about the tiny little bubbles, I naturally slipped into song...

Next week is the last Sunday market until next April so get down there while you can. And bring leis.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Feeling better

Rice. Rice is an amazing thing. Thank you rice.

Feeling so much better that we're adding Life Begins @ Thirty to our blogs list. Long time BBC enthusiast and author of this.

Ouch.

Too much coffee makes for a bad stomach. Ow.

OK, so today was all about testing of more blends. If I had the answer, you'd be one of the first to know. Ow.

Going to go make an americano now. Ow.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

The Pigeon on Top of the Owl

An early morning of rain and traffic as Boyman braved the city so that people would have their coffee. Thanks to online maps that are out of synch with the actual street names, things got a little confused. However, the city deliveries were made in just a few hours.

The best delivery by far: One customer in Noe Valley actually answered the door as the coffee was being dropped off in a bathrobe and holding a little dog with a pink bow in it's hair. He says "You have no idea how wonderful it is that you are here this morning!" at which he turned back into the house and shut the door singing "Coffeeman!" Love it.

Then stopped by the frogs to diagnose some portafilter problems (bent filter basket) and to try some shots. The Chiapas is the key.

Then to Hayes Valley to finally learn the open-up protocols and to pull some test shots. James showed up and struggled with the P.I.D. system (I'll have him explain it at some point in the future). Frustrated, we ate lunch and decided to pull shots anyway. We tried some straight Chiapas in the triple basket with the display reading 215F. This is cold in espresso terms but a few of the shots came out very sweet. We found one blend at this low temperatures that had a sickly sweetness. Interesting.

Then, as if those shot fired some synapses within James sweating think-organ, we realized the problem with the P.I.D. actually sourced from the machine itself! Oops. A screwdriver later and we had that thing showing 258F. At this temp, you could hear and see the steam shooting out of the grouphead. Wow.

We tried some more blends, but basically, by the time we were getting back into the process, we had had too much espresso. Even with little sips we were getting irritable and confused. If you ever had any question as to the psycho-pharmacological effect of C8H10N4O2, let me tell you, paranoid ain't the half of it.

Tomorrow we spit.

Questions for discussion:
1) When sampling espresso blends in succession, is there any way to cut down on the caffeine intake while still being able to taste? Any stylistic ideas for tasting (ie spitting or quenching of the palate)?

2) When controlling for different parameters in the making of shots, whether that is the art, the temp or the blend, where is a good place to start? It seems like the permutations are endless and it would be nice to set a benchmark.

Now Zees.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Switcheroo

While Boyman spent his Sunday working tirelessly to draw customers to the cart, Cabby's truck broke down. Hella bummer for her rig is the transporter not only of herself, but also of many BBCC beans. Damn! So, today got a little confusing as everyone had to do some other persons J-O-B.

Cold as it was on the outside, the roaster was bustling with activity. All the boys were there at one time, arguing, laughing, making coffee. Manboy even got the wild hair to go down to the Ethiopian market to buy cardamom for a quick batch of Turkish coffee. Wow. We also helped out a person who was operating under the misaprehension that we were a working cafe (confused AND disappointed!) and sold a lot of beans. We even put bags around them.

Manboy also pulled an excellent shot of the 3 Africans while James made it taste terrible in a drip scenario.

And after Saturday's problems, we sought help from a local fellow who would like to turn up the gas on our burners. To his disappointment, we maybe can fix the problem through plumbing instead of fire. Damn again!

Long day was rounded out with a pizza from the new Lanesplitter on 48th and Telegraph. Recommending the thicker crust we's'is.

And the best story of the day came from a very excited Caitlin who broke an oath of silence to tell all that in a drunken rage, James, that is James our roaster, actually gave someone a high-five, in public. You can build your celebrity chef-ness up for years, but a beer and a half later, and everything is ruined. Damn! Damn!

The Slowdown

Well, Sunday was like it old self. The weather was supposed to be bad so a couple of vendors with less fortitude decided they didn't want to get wet. But to their surprise (and ours as well) it was a beautiful day. It was back to the O.G. crew as well with BBC, Juniper Ridge and LouLou's Garden all lined up together. With the lack of stop and munch availability, I think it's safe to say that this was not one of our best markets.

It didn't help that the propane was basically empty when I showed up. It didn't take long to diagnose our problem, but waiting for the water to heat back up was a pain. It might explain Saturday's problems. Did fix the grinder though so yes.

Onward!

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Working the bugs out

After the trying weather conditions of the previous week, BBC started Saturday optimistically with the sun coming gloriously into the sky. But our hopes were dashed soon after when that very same sun disappeared behind the cloud and didn't com back for several hours. We persisted however and tried to make drinks as fast as our numb little fingers could work. The Astoria was giving us some grief.

The autofill has been troublesome since the summer, but never so much as on Saturday. We tried to fill the tank to bursting to have more of a reserve, but even that only helped so much. We are currently exploring options so if any of you engineers have an idea of how to soup up a gas burning espresso machine, we're all ears.


The eating at the Ferry Plaza is also a good thing. Tamales from Cocina Primavera, Chicken from Roli Roti, and eggs/bacon/potatoes from Rose Pistola. Thanks to Manboy for doing the lion's share of the work in the post-op.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Developments

As of yesterday, the Hayes Valley Kiosk Project is a-OK with the San Francisco Health Department. There are a few more steps to be taken before we can open (supplies, training, testing, etc.) but we can see the finish line.

We also pulled some shots of Victrola espresso today. Their set-up is similar to ours except that they have a bigger roaster and live in Seattle. If my feet were held to the fire, I would swear that the blend included a Sumatra, some crazy central american and Brazil, Brazil, Brazil. We were a little worried about the shots coming out of our San Marco being too cool to taste right, but we were impressed. Very nutty, and the crema! Don't get me started.


A rather poor shot of a rather good shot of Victrola Streamline Espresso

Thanks again to tonx for the coffees. Further testing will be made on the HV Marzocco.

We also received a wonderful email from a happy cappuccino drinker who tried Blue Bottle for the first time served up by our friends at Tucos in Davis, Ca. More on their new and excellent establishment in a bit.

Thanks for listening. That is all.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

And to think

Well, after last Tuesday's surprise success, we were a little too hopeful that this would turn into a regular thing. In truth, the Ferry Plaza was a little spare today. That could have been caused by the record cold weather that we have been having, but one would think that cold weather would drive people to drink more coffee. Hmm.

On a more exciting note, our health inspection was a pass (short a little shellac) so we here at BBCC are looking forward to opening up that cart for business sometime in the next couple of weeks. James has a list of to-dos so we'll see.

Also, Odd-job has returned to the Tuesday Berkeley market to replace Manboy. With it getting dark so early, the sales at that market may slide.

Stay Tuned!